only the moon
privy to a possum’s
tightrope walk

Madhuri Pillai


Ah . . . the nimbleness of possums is certainly a thing to admire as they make their way through the night. A lovely image full of silence and the softness of moonlight.  I wonder how this scene is lit for you?  Is the possum lit overhead or in silhouette or does the moon peek from behind dark drifts of cloud?  For me the image came in silhouette and with a shadow; possum and shadow making their way slowly across their tightrope walk.

The word privy with its connotations of privacy is a particularly effective word choice.  It calls to mind here the secret goings on in the darkness outside as we perhaps go about our usual routine indoors, are out for the night or perhaps in deep sleep. While we are immersed in our own thoughts and concerns other happenings are unfolding and other lives being lived. It seems to me a shortcoming of human nature that we are sometimes inclined to think of reality in terms of our own experience and I am grateful for moments like this where I’m reminded of the world beyond my knowing and beyond my experience.  How rich and how full must be the sum total of all sentient experience and of all reality.  In this haiku, the moon alone has the privilege of witnessing this particular happening in ‘possum world’ and while personification is not always encouraged in haiku it can be most effective if used subtly as it is here . . . bestowing a touch of magic upon this truly beautiful scene.

First published: Cattails, January 2016

Selection & comments by Simon Hanson

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